If it is true that some talent is in-born, then art skills in Nicolas Mbonela aka Che-Nkope is natural. He needs no introduction as his art works speak volumes of the flexibility in him. His success story is wrapped in four faces—radio producer and presenter, musician, comedian and entrepreneur.
Surprisingly, although Che-Nkope is among the country’s celebrities in arts, he has never had an easy road in life. He has lived the worst from of life having grown up in the village and raised by a widow. He recalls the time he could not afford to be at a better secondary school due to school fees, but slowly, the 29-year-old defied the odds and created space for his name among the smarts in art world.
The journey began while at Malawi Institute of Journalism (MIJ) where he did a Certificate and Diploma in Journalism. Unlike many who are in the media today, Che-Nkope did not need to graduate to make a name. Before finishing the certificate level, the institution, which also has a radio station, spotted his talent. He impressed directors at ShareWorld University to run a promotional programme about them.
You may recall ‘Graduate’ on MIJ FM. It is the first sponsored programme on the station, founded, produced and presented by an intern. Nonetheless, this was just a scratch of what he can do. Few months later, the versatile artist founded Zilipati, which won a huge following after it unmasked the Nachipanti story of Ndirande.
It was the same time, the Machinjiri-based artist proved his prowess. He made it for Radio 2 FM ‘Fun Line Mix’ where he was known as Master Mind. At the Same time, he partnered Piksy and found Atumwi, which rocked with its Sendeza genre. Do you still remember hits such as Moseliwa, Chipwirikiti, Pamtima and Mnzanga?
There is one thing that makes Che-Nkope stand out. His programmes and whatever he did with Piksy came naturally, and not copy-cuts. Again, his ideas excel. Think of ‘Nancy versus Che-Nkope’, a comic that has now turned to be a stage comedy after playing on MIJ FM and Times Television. You will be surprised to know that Nancy does not exist. It is just an image he created to entertain using comedy. He says the comic is designed for laughter and this is the trait that characterises his work. If you meet Che-Nkope, do not expect to keep your lips zipped—you are bound to talk and laugh. That is what makes Che-Nkope.
Now doing his fourth year at the University of Malawi, The Polytechnic, studying a bachelor’s degree in Business Communication, Che-Nkope is also an entrepreneur. Since he resigned from MIJ FM—after a two-year battle with a heart problem—Che-Nkope runs Essential Media which provides services such as hiring out sound equipment, producing documentaries and video shooting.
“Some people say I resigned on health grounds. This is a lie. I am healthy and strong, but busy with school and my firm. I thank President Peter Mutharika and former minister of Information Kondwani Nankhumwa for helping me to seek medical attention outside Malawi,” he explains.
Che-Nkope lives alone. He is not married, but has a fiancé, Sylvia Jana. They have a child, Nicole.
Che-Nkope, the last born in a family on nine, is outgoing and likes swimming. If you want to host him prepare traditional meals, but take note he is allergic to gossipers and pompous characters.
He says he has learnt lessons, especially when he struggled with the heart problem and people killed him on social media, a development he says only added more years to his life.
His elder brother, James, describes him as friendly and says the only problem the artist had was getting angry on minor issues, but says this was because of the heart problem. He adds that Che-Nkope is a goal-getter who wants to try everything.
Che-Nkope comes from Kakoma Village, Traditional Authority Chikowi in Zomba and wants to be remembered for the issues he tackles in ‘Nancy Vs Che-Nkope’. n